‘Without music, Jaws would wear dentures’ – Steven Spielberg hits out at pre-recording the Best Score Oscar

8 March 2022, 15:54 | Updated: 8 March 2022, 17:53

Watch Steven Spielberg talk about Rachel Zegler in West Side Story featurette

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Last month, the Academy announced it would cut eight categories from the live Oscars telecast, including Best Original Score.

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Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg, whose work with longtime collaborator John Williams has included Jaws and E.T., has publicly opposed the Motion Picture Academy’s decision to prerecord Best Original Score, along with seven other awards.

“When I look back and I think without John Williams, Jaws would wear dentures,” Spielberg told Deadline after a screening of West Side Story, which is up for seven Oscars including two categories which will now be pre-recorded, Production Design and Sound.

“With West Side Story, when Tony is singing ‘Tonight’ with Maria, without (Production Designer) Adam Stockhausen he would be singing it on a stepladder and she would be on the scaffolding, all this on an empty soundstage.”

Taking a similar approach to the Tony Awards, the Academy has decided that eight awards this year – Best Documentary Short, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup/Hairstyling, Best Original Score, Best Production Design, Best Animated Short, Best Live-Action Short and Best Sound – will be presented and accepted an hour before the televised show begins and edited into the subsequent broadcast.

Read more: John Williams needed a clarinettist on the ‘Jaws’ soundtrack. So, Spielberg volunteered.

John Williams conducts the Vienna Philharmonic in the 'Imperial March'

“Without film editing all my movies would still be in dailies,” Spielberg added.

“We all come together to make magic, and I am sad that we will all not be on live television watching magic happen together. Everybody will have their moment in the limelight. All the winners will be able to be shown with their acceptance speeches, but it’s the idea that we can’t all be there.”

Spielberg, who is nominated for Best Director and Best Picture at this year’s ceremony and sits on the Academy’s Board of Governors, added that he was not optimistic the decision would be reversed ahead of the broadcast on 28 March.

“I disagree with the decision made by the executive committee. I feel very strongly that this is perhaps the most collaborative medium in the world. All of us make movies together, we become a family where one craft is just as indispensable as the next.

“I feel that at the Academy Awards there is no above the line, there is no below the line. All of us are on the same line bringing the best of us to tell the best stories we possibly can.”

Read more: ‘Best Original Score’ award will not be broadcast live at 2022 Oscars ceremony

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The Academy will publish the winners of the eight pre-recorded categories on their social media channels as soon as they are announced, meaning that the winners will not be a surprise to those tuning into the live telecast.

Noting that the idea to prerecord certain categories first came up in 2019, Spielberg added: “The same thing came close to happening three years ago and at the eleventh hour a decision was made that reversed it and four categories that were in the commercial breaks were reinstated on the live show. I hope it’s reversed, but I’m not anticipating a reversal and I am not optimistic about it.”

Academy President David Rubin, who announced the decision last month, told Deadline: “I can’t imagine that we’re not going to deliver the Oscar experience that both the nominees and the audience have been wanting and are dreaming about.

“We feel really good about this plan. It feels inclusive and respectful and celebratory.”

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